HIGH POINT — Leaders in the e-commerce space say consumers are demanding more out of brands and better online experiences, so e-tailers will need to be agile and show a willingness to change in order to remain relevant.

This is according to the Future of E-Commerce sessions conducted by Furniture Today Editor in Chief Bill McLoughlin during the recent Leadership Conference with Niraj Shah, CEO of Wayfair; Jonathan Johnson, CEO of Overstock; and Eric Hutchinson, co-founder of Resident.

Shah said one of Wayfair’s keys to success is the four traits they look for in the people that they hire.

“The first thing we look for are folks who are very ambitious; we don’t want to limit their desire to move forward,” he said. “The second quality is intellectual strength, we need people who have tremendous rigor to process information. We also want folks who are very data oriented and analytical. And finally, we are looking for people who are collaborative, both internally and with outside partners. We don’t like silos.”

Wayfair also uses technology as much as possible and is willing to take risks, according to Shah. This leads them to trying five ideas a year compared to most companies that try one or two.

Shah also believes that 3D models and augmented reality will be the future for e-commerce.

Overstock’s Johnson said the future is moving to mobile, noting that in the second quarter, more than half of Overstock’s purchases came from mobile channel.

“Ultimately, the product description and visuals need to be good, the product quality needs to be great, and then delivery depends on the product, smaller items arrive more quickly,” Johnson said. “The more important area is the accuracy of the delivery estimate.”

Overstock is also using machine learning and artificial intelligence so that customers can see the product in their own homes before purchase.

“We were in a reinvention mode prior to the pandemic to focus on the basics; we whittled 27 key initiatives in 2019 down to just four,” he said, calling out improving the mobile website, easier to understand discounting and pricing, real time performance and SKU data.

Johnson said this focus made the difference when the pandemic hit. Overstock was flooded with orders, but it was able to deal with the surge in online traffic. It is now working on automating the customer’s post purchase experience, such as initiating a return or making a parts request.

For Resident, which started as a digitally native channel but now has partnerships with retailers to sell products in-store, the goal is to serve customers wherever they are.

“We mapped out the customer journey. The top of the funnel is where most customers do research, and … we determine early on if they are more likely to purchase in person and then direct them to one of our retail partners,” said Hutchinson.

Resident works hard to establish trust. For example, if a consumer purchases a mattress when moving into a new home, the company makes sure the customer has a 100% positive experience so they can continue the relationship. The company also believes in the importance of trials to minimize returns.

Hutchinson said when the customer is in the middle of the funnel, it works to educate them and help them to compare costs. At the bottom of the funnel, Resident increases the value that it is delivering against the product.

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